SPECTRAL KNIGHTS is a unique, fantasy serial…starring YOU!
You’re the main character in this story, but you’re not who you think you are, and the world is nothing like our own. This is a special story that will be told in episodes, with a total of nine planned for release.
I publish this for free, for everyone to read. No, you CAN’T get it on Amazon. 😉
Genres: Fantasy, Apocalypse, Superhero, Action & Adventure.
Banner and cover photography by Kristaps Ungurs on Unsplash.
In a world of opposites and contrasts, chaos threatens all. But man and spirit are not alone in their strife, and the spectral knights must play their part.
Will the world be saved and be reborn? Or will it be doomed and face destruction?
Either way, it’s up to ‘you’ to make the difference.
This story is being written and released as a series of short stories told in second-person perspective (ex: “You ran to the door, but before you could open it, a blood-curdling scream chilled you to the bone.”).
Scroll down to read it!
Spectral Knights #1: The Green
by M. Lorrox
Long, long ago, the world was split in half. One side was light and filled with life; the other side was dark and filled with spirits. A great boundary stretching into the infinite stood between these lands of light and dark—a great ocean set vertical. Its black water reflected back toward both sides, showing only the world that was known.
A piercing pain radiates from your neck, and you open your eyes to see a spear poking into your throat. At the far end of the weapon is a figure, leaning with a tensed body shrouded in robes, their face hidden beneath a hood. “Who are you?” It asks, in a low and booming voice.
You realize that you have no idea.
It drives the spear’s point into your flesh another millimeter, piercing the skin and sparking fresh pain and heightened fear. “How did you get here?”
“I don't know!” You say while staring into the shadow of the hood.
Dark red fingers squeeze tighter on the shaft of the spear, creaking against the wood. The figure twists the spear in its hand, and the blade drills with its point another millimeter into your throat. “What do you want?”
“I don't know anything! I just woke up, or maybe fell asleep… This must be a nightmare.”
After a moment that could have been a day or only a second, the shoulders beneath the shrouds of robe relax, and the figure lowers the spear from your throat. A drip of blood starts to trickle and tickle down your neck. “You have no memory?” It asks.
Released from the spear, you shake your head and dare to glance away from the hood. The figure's robes are a faded red and gray, are tattered at the edges, and sway in a hot breeze. You lie on the ground, leaning against the short stone wall of a well. Behind the figure that stands over you, a small hut sits in the distance. Everything else is brown and dust. Even the sky is impossibly brown and dry. “Where am I?” You glance back into the shadow of the hood, half expecting a monster or demon to be glaring back at you with shining eyes, but instead you only see darkness. “Who are you?”
The figure twists the handle of the spear and catches light on the blade, shining it into the darkness of the hood. A thin slice of light scribbles along a scarred and rough, dark face, leading up to an eye of red iris. The pupil shrinks against the light. “I am The Red, The Fist, The Keeper.”
The boundary was neither a part of the living world, nor was it of the spirit world. It stood between them since the times before times. Present in them, yet separate to both, crossing the barrier meant death, or life. This boundary was not of either world, but was a bridge between them.
The Red sits with its back against yours. You cannot tell how long you've been sitting and meditating, but it seems likely that you just sat down moments ago. On all sides, little hills of sand have collected around you. A breeze blows a little more sand up the dunes as you sit and breathe. “Master, I have a question.”
“What are you?”
Without a pause, instead of answering your question, The Red asks, “What are you?”
You frown. You seldom understand much of what he—or she—tells you. “I feel we are in the world of the spirits, but I do not understand what you are, nor where we sit, nor how time passes.”
“I am a Spectre. I live among the spirits in their world, although I am not one of them.”
“How did you get here?”
“I didn't, I was always here.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I am The Keeper. I protect the boundary to the living world. I keep it safe.
“How long have you protected it?”
After a pause, The Red sighs and takes a breath. “How long have you been here? A month? A year? A lifetime? Or a minute?”
You cannot answer.
“This world is timeless, my apprentice. Here, we know not of hunger, nor of fatigue, nor does dread ever consume us; these things can only grow in time. I will protect the boundary for as long as there is a boundary to protect.”
“I see. And what am I to do here?”
Crossing the boundary destroys the reality of what crosses and changes that reality into the other. Matter to energy. Thought to flesh. The wall of black water divides the opposites and gives them existence.
A blow to your stomach curls you over. You recover and jump away from a sweeping strike from your master’s spear. The blade whistles through the air as it passes, slowing imperceptibly as it cuts through a few threads of your robe. Gasping for breath, you leap away and roll to regain your own spear. Now that its smooth wooden shaft is again in your fingers, you are filled with a gust of confidence.
“Very good, you've learned well.” The Red swings its spear behind its back and sinks into a low stance. “Let us make this more challenging.” Holding up its other hand, The Red quickly flexes and positions its fingers into odd configurations, and strange-sounding murmurs escape from The Red's dark hood.
Instantly, the ground beneath your feet disappears, and you are floating. You look to your opponent, who is floating in front of you, smiling. You look down, “Master, how should I move with no ground to push against?”
“Who said there ever was?”
“I felt it, and I jumped off it moments ago. It supported my staff that you had so skillfully flung from my hands. These things told me that the ground was there.”
“Those things lied to you.” The Red holds out a palm, gesturing from the elbow. “Here, time and physicality are illusions we let ourselves believe… Now defend yourself!” The Red lunges toward you as it spins the spear around its waist. Switching hands, it grabs the spear and continues the spinning momentum into a powerful diagonal strike toward your abdomen.
You shoot straight up and over your master with a thought. Looking down at your opponent, you perceive a glimmer of the infinity of time, and you use this revelation to free your movements from limitations. You swing your spear down toward The Red’s back, and you twist the shaft so that you only strike with the flat of the blade instead of the edge. Your master looks up to find you as your attack is about to land. You look into pupils surrounded by rings of red, and you realize that you are facing each other, back on the ground. Your spears are both upright in your hands.
The Red is smiling.
The spear in your hand feels odd; you glance away from your master to look at it more closely. The wooden shaft used to support a plain, simple blade, but now, it is different. A large, four-sided, diamond-shaped spearhead sits at the top, wide and thick. Instead of being made of gray metal, as before, it appears to have been carved out of a black glass. Little waves cascade and break toward the serrated and scalloped edges. Grooves run down each face of the black blade, and they continue down the length of the wooden shaft all the way to the other end. There, the grooves lead into a thick cylinder of the same black and scalloped glass.
You look back at your Master. “What just happened?”
“The better question: why?”
Ten thousand generations of people lived alongside the great wall of black water and respected its place in their world. But in time, man's greed prevailed. Ever wanting more and more from their world, the barrier was seen as a malevolence that constrained their desires. Even while they could not touch this boundary and live, they forced it back with their will.
You slice through impossibly thin armor with your spear and release another wisp of spirit into the air. The armor and blade the spirit had enchanted falls to the ground with no more sound than a single hair drifting off a stallion's mane. Looking up, you see glints of light blinking off more attackers. Behind you, your master fights a group of three.
With a thought, you are in the air, spiraling as you leap the great and small distance backward to assist The Red. You are about to land when only two attacking spirits remain before your master.
The trajectory you chose was lucky, and you are unseen by the spirit in the rougher and older looking set of armor. You extend your spear to impale it as you fly straight toward its back. The Red quickly dispatches the other spirit, but when your master looks up to see you shooting at the spirit in the old armor like an arrow from the heavens, The Red doesn't hide your assault. “Look out!”
You wonder why your master would give away your attack, but then it is made clear to you. That old armor housed no ordinary spirit. Before the black waves of glass crash into the ragged, cloth-covered chain mail, the armor splits into two identical sets—one to each side of where you aimed.
Lifting yourself above the end of your spear, you bury the spearhead into the ground. You vault over your weapon as a pair of swords, swinging in unison, slice straight through the thick wood of your spear's shaft. The end of your spear with the cylinder remains in your hands as you spin and land beyond the double set of armor’s reach. Holding a weapon akin to a club, you look inside the pair of helmets.
You are surprised to see a single blue eye glowing from within each.
The Red had moved into line with both of them. With a shout, your master stands on one leg and extends its spear toward the mirrored sets of armor. Although they stand many feet away, the spear snaps into a great extension and pierces through them both at once. Instantly, the armor disintegrates and is picked up by a foul-smelling wind.
The Red collapses.
You rush over and kneel. Your master's spear slowly shrinks back to its normal length, still extended out from your master's hand. Dust covers the red and gray robes. “What is wrong?”
“You will not understand yet.” Rolling over and sitting up, The Red looks past your thighs to the coming wave of desperate spirits that charge toward you. Your master looks up at you, then stands.
Lifting its spear into the sky, your master spins it over your heads. Faster and faster, the spear stirs the winds and beats dust into your eyes. With a single word spoken under the whirling frenzy, The Red slams a foot into the ground. The world trembles.
You turn toward the attackers. They should be upon you, but they are very distant—if there is such a thing, in such a place such as where you find yourself.
Your master puts a hand on your shoulder. “You cannot stay here.”
Once men bent their minds and will against the boundary, they forced it all the way back and onto itself, squeezing and compressing it. A thin black line was all that remained until one more thought swept it quietly into a mist along the wind. This mist drifted and settled across the world, distributed almost equally throughout.
“You are a servant to the boundary between realities. What I am, and am not here, you will be, and will not be there, for you are a spirit that was born with life. Balance between the worlds must be restored.”
Standing before the well you first awoke beside, you look down into the black depths. You hear the sloshing and churn of the water within, and you realize how absent of sound the rest of this world is. “This is the boundary?”
“What should I do?”
“What can you do?”
“I am not sure.”
“Neither am I.”
You look back into the boundary, expecting to see nothing, as nothing of this world is clear to you. Instead you see more than what you thought possible. Staring into it, you see voices and hear faces, smell heartbeats and feel lifetimes.
You look back up at your master. “What will I find there?”
The Red smiles back at you. “Life.”
“And death.” You look at the short piece of spear in your hand. Light bouncing off the waves of the boundary glints against the scalloped black glass cylinder, making it look as if it were made of the black water itself. You hold the remnant of the weapon in both hands out to your master. “I think I need a new spear.”
“All you need, you already are… But a weapon would be useful.” The Red takes the remnants of the spear from you and puts a hand on your shoulder, “I will send you one. Now go.”
With singular thought, you leap into the black water.
Ages passed. The boundary has been forgotten among men but not among the spirits whose memory is without fault. Every spirit remembers—and desires—life. They hunt for the boundary to cross back and live again, but achieving their goal comes at a great cost. The black water of the boundary is taken in by the spirit, allowing it substance and flesh, but it is the only thing in the world of spirits with limit.
Swimming down and down, the cold water grows dense. As you swim into the darkness, all your skin begins to tingle. An effervescence embraces you as you struggle with the thickness of the liquid. The crushing pressure of the ice-cold water leaches the warmth from you, but still you swim on. The burning that had grown in your lungs now fades… You fade.
The water is thick—you struggle against it with every pull of your arms.
You have nothing but one last burst in you. Screaming out from empty lungs, pulling one more time with your arms, kicking violently with your legs, you put all your energy into one last effort. For the first time, you feel terror.
Suddenly, up becomes down and down becomes death. The thick water is now behind you, pushing you upward. Opening your eyes, you look up and see a shimmer in the darkness—orange and silver. Your entire body feels like it is on fire, the effervescence reversed now; your skin wants to pull from you, ripping sinew and flesh from the bone. You feel the tug as you are pushed toward the shimmering light above, until, all of a sudden, you emerge to the surface.
Gasping for breath, you inhale streams of water that run off your face. Coughing and sputtering, you flail your arms to hold onto something to keep you afloat, and you easily find a wall. You float in a stone well. The water flows over the edges with the push upward from beneath. For a few moments, you can only cling to the old stones and breathe.
You feel the warmth slowly creep back into you, and along with it comes your strength. The water around you feels warm now, and the air smells fresh…until the wind changes. Smoke and ash fill your lungs. You pull yourself out of the well and turn into the wind; your eyes burn as you peer into the acidic air. You nod, because you know why you are there.
As you stand next to the well, the water stops pouring over the edges and retreats down inside the dark walls. Before you, a great white building with a tall spire of gold spits red embers and smoke, glowing orange, high into the air. Flames purr softly as they seductively lick outside the windows, and black fringes grow on the edges between the white and the fire. You hear something that could be a cough, and then a voice.
A door on the side of the building emits yellow and green light through a stained-glass window. You rush toward it and enter there.
To a spirit, time and space are meaningless; and as it is to them, it is to their world. But the boundary is separate, and it is diminished with every spirit made live. Only a small boundary remains, and the spirits of the millennia hunt for it. Timelessly, they yearn for it, and relentlessly, they search for it.
Inside, you find the room adorned in tasseled, plush fabrics and dark wood furniture. Silver and gold boxes are spilled open. Pearls and shining chains sit in stark contrast against the rich cascading shades of soft velvet. Jewels of every color and coins of all sizes form a frozen river of riches spilling across the tops of desks, tables, and pillows. All order in the room is lost; everything has been overturned.
Beyond the room, a door rests ajar—open enough to allow flickering, flittering bursts of color from the flames beyond to project onto the wall and ceiling above.
You head toward the door. As you pass the wealth of opulent delights, a little silver box catches your eye. It sits on a desk against the wall while a red pillow with gold tassels rests over it, partially hiding it. You are drawn to it, and as you approach, you see yourself in the mirror for the first time.
You have no hair atop your head, you have crisp, green eyes, and you have smooth, shiny, green leather skin. You are not shocked or surprised, but interested only in seeing yourself for the first time. You touch your cheek. The leather depresses and throws a shimmer of reflected light off you. Looking back down at the box, you remove the pillow laying on it and open it. Inside lies a small, blue velvet cushion, and resting atop is a gold pendent. Its shape is that of a bar, and it has four emeralds set in a row, equally spaced across the bar. At the top is a loop to hang it from a chain or cord.
Something possesses you, and you cannot take your eyes off this charm. You lift it from its coffin and place it into a pocket in your robe as you continue through the room to the door on the other side.
The boundary connects the worlds. If it diminishes altogether— consumed by spirits as they are transformed into dying flesh—then like a coin with no thickness, the two sides of the world cannot exist.
Beyond the room is a staircase leading down. Flames dance up through the opening, carrying with them the desperate cries of a horse below. Again, a voice calls out. “Help!”
“I am coming!”
You pour yourself through the flames and down the stairs. Your eyes burn against the heat, and you squint to protect them. You realize that this is a world of physicality that will constrain you in new ways.
At the bottom of the stairs is a short passage and then stables. Burning beams and rafters fill the entire space in hot light. A portion of the ceiling has collapsed, trapping a large, light-gray stallion in its stall. A woman struggles to remove fallen debris to free the animal. She is tall, with long, straight black hair and tan skin. She hasn't noticed you yet.
“I can help.”
She glances at you with her eyes wide: at first in relief, but now in horror. As you look into her eyes, the red and orange flickering light sparkles in them, and you sense she fears you. “Please, let me help you,” you say.
She glances to the horse, then to the large doors behind her that lead out into the night—toward her escape—and then back to you. You hardly move. You see her fear, fueled by panic, but she begins to calm with a growing tenderness. A moment passes and somehow now, you can tell that she trusts you. You notice her expression change. She looks straight at you, now with determination.
“Come here.” She says as she turns back to the pile of debris.
The horse neighs in anxiety as the woman works to clear the area in front of the stall. A large beam, thicker than your foot is long, blocks the door and stretches across the ground. Luckily, it hasn't caught fire, yet. The woman picks up a board and wedges it underneath the beam to try and move it. She struggles, bending the board with her strength, but she cannot budge the beam. You stand nearby, watching her. She releases the pressure on the board and looks at you. Strands of her hair have escaped from the tied bunch behind her neck, and they now cling to her sweat-covered face, partially blocking her sight. She doesn't pull her hair aside; instead she looks at you with a furrowed brow.
“Stand back,” you say. She hands the board to you. You take it and toss it on the ground, then you bend down to the beam and embrace it. You wrap your hands around the old, rough wood and pull your chest down to it. The woman takes a step back.
You stand up, and piles of broken wood slide off the beam as you lift it. You turn and toss the beam out of the way, in front of a row of empty stables. It crashes into the ground with a great thud. When you turn back, she is staring at you. You look into her eyes for only an instant, and then you begin to move the rest of the boards and debris away from the door to the stall. She bends to help, and when the door is cleared, she opens it and grabs the stallion's bridle.
If the boundary were to be lost, then nothing would remain. No singular thing can exist if it isn't at the same time the not of something else. Nothing would remain: not even quiet, not even peace, not even solitude, nor calm, nor balance, for these are all themselves the opposites of something other.
Without the boundary, all of reality would cancel.
More and more of the building catches flame as the woman tosses a saddle on the light-gray horse. A crash of falling boards behind you startles the stallion, and it tugs at the woman, wanting to get away from the danger. The woman jogs with the horse to the open doors that lead into the night. There, she pauses and looks up at you. “What are you?” She asks, all panic gone from her mind.
“Different,” you say back to her. “I am a Spectre.”
She nods, then she glances away from the building. You follow her gaze to a chestnut mare that is lashed to a tree and that drinks from a water trough. The woman looks back to you and pushes the light-gray stallion's bridle toward you. “You should take this horse. That one over there is mine.”
You take hold of the bridle. “Thank you,” you say, as she releases her grasp but moves her hand to the leathery skin on the back of yours. You feel nothing—as if she wasn’t really there.
When she looks back up to you, she smiles. “Thank you.”
You nod, but she doesn't see it. She is running to her horse. You mount the stallion, then you guide it to the water trough for a drink. As it bends down, you look into the haze to try and see the woman riding away. You search the direction she went and believe that you can see a trail telling of her passage. Looking in other directions, all you see is orange-colored smoke. The horse is making a lot of noise drinking, and you look down at the ripples it makes in the water. Something below the surface catches your eye.
You dismount, and you look into the water. You see through the bottom boards of the trough, and you can almost make out your master's red face, there in the depths. You squint and focus to see through the ripples on top of the water, through the bottom of the trough, past the surfaces of this world. You can see to the spirit side. The face is gone now, but you see a long and thin object.
You reach deep into the trough, farther down than the trough is deep, and you grab the shaft of the weapon. When you pull it out, you are pleased to see it intact once again. The frozen waves of black glass crash into point and blade. You are surprised for a moment when you notice a green glow, growing in intensity, emanating from within the carvings that stretch from the spear’s point to the weighted cylinder on the other end. It didn't glow in the spirit world, but it has changed, like you. Holding it beside you, you close your eyes. You can feel a breath travel through it—a slow pulse and tide within. It feels good in your hand, and you feel stronger with it.
You can tell that its physicality is fluid; it is not an object of this world. You bend the shaft of the spear into a circle, and it stays a circle. You straighten it back, and it is straight. You thrust with it to the side and expect it to stretch, and it stretches. You swipe with it past the tree, and it passes through it in a green mist. You pull it back and shorten it, and you slash with the blade into the side of the trough. It carves a gash.
You look back into the water. You were physical in the spirit world. If now you are the opposite on this side of the boundary, then you are a spirit in this world. You reach to the horse's long nose and your hand passes through it. Your body is replaced by green mist until your hand reaches the other side. You pull on the stallion’s bridle, and it pulls the horse. You realize that you can only physically interact with the non-living.
You feel a yearning for the water and realize you have thirst. You feel the grips of time now upon you. Cupping some of the cold water in your hands, you bring it to your lips and drink. You feel the liquid spill into your mouth and down your throat, soothing you. You climb up and into the great horse’s saddle. You choose a direction, as any direction will do, and you ride.
The worlds of light and dark stand opposite to one another, and as the boundary can be used up by spirits, it can be created by men. The world of the living has fallen into despair—so close to the edge of chaos and annihilation that little true light remains.
You will travel here and there, present in these worlds, yet separate to both. You will walk the boundary between darkness and light, along the barrier of death and life to find a way to restore the balance. You are a Spectre: you are The Green, The Mist, The Guardian.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2020 by M. Lorrox ® and Tomato Potato Co. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For more information visit https://mlorrox.com/crypto/
Minted by M. Lorrox: 0x03fa4a3ebec3cd8357fc71942ca0a68178a21eb8
Published by Tomato Potato Co.
Cover photo by Kristaps Ungurs on Unsplash.
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